a few days before christmas, doubletonic dropped a surprise by our front porch on her way out of town: some of the sweetest, prettiest pears mail-order can deliver. someone had sent them to her workplace, and well, dt's coworkers just must not have ever heard of the legend of harry & david. despite dt's best efforts to work her way through the crate, there were still several perfect, golden-wrapped pears begging to be devoured. the question was not whether they would be dispatched, but in what form. but since it was so near christmas, any imagining of pears came along with the spicy richness of ginger and molasses. done. this cake is a paradox of lightness and savory depth. it was one of my favorite (and easiest) of martha's recipes, and now I believe it may be even better. mmm ... yeah, and better on the hips than the usual embellishment of whipped cream.
gingerbread pear cake
(serves at least 12 — adapted from martha)
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus some for pans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus a little for the pans
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp candied ginger, diced to taste
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
confectioners' sugar, for dusting
heat oven to 350 degrees. butter and flour a 9-by-13-inch pan (or two 8" rounds), and set aside. in a small-ish bowl with high sides, combine boiling water and baking soda, and set aside. in a mid-sized bowl, sift together flour, ground spices, salt, and baking powder, and set aside.
in a large bowl, cream butter until light, then add brown sugar and beat until very fluffy. beat in molasses and grated ginger, baking-soda mixture, and flour mixture, then beat in eggs (be sure to add eggs, lightly beaten). stir in pears (or place directly into the pans, tarte tatin style, as this batter is quite loose and they pretty much fall directly to the bottom of the pan anyway).
pour batter into prepared pan; bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. cool completely on a wire rack before dusting liberally with confectioners’ sugar.
then take one over to your landlord's house so they'll reconsider raising the rent in 2010.